Loops, the Limits of Language, the Paradoxical Loneliness of “I Love You,” and What Keeps Love Alive

Thisbe by John William Waterhouse, 1909. Available as a print.Thinking about this on among my cemetery loops, since the act of walking is likewise a magnificent machete for clearing the pathways of memory overgrown with life, I all of a sudden remembered a passage by the French semiotician and thinker Roland Barthes (November 12, 1915– March 26, 1980) from his superb 1977 part-autobiography, part-rebellion versus the conventions of life and of the telling of life-stories, Roland Barthes by Roland Barthes (public library)– the playful, extensive, blazingly original self-interrogation that offered us his existential brochure of likes and dislikes.

When I walk– which I do every day, as fundamental sanity-maintenance, whether in the cemetery or the forest or the city street– I stroll the same paths, walk along loops, loops I often retrace several times in a single walk. I stroll to believe more plainly, which means to pass through the world with ever-broadening scope of attention to truth, ever-widening circles of curiosity, ever-deepening interest in the ceaselessly flickering constellation of information within and without. In this respect, strolling is a lot like love– for one human being to enjoy another is to continuously find brand-new layers of oneself while continually discovering new layers of the other, and in them brand-new footholds of love.

This renders the exchange of I like yous– that desirable agreement of mutuality– an odd sort of deal, currency encrypted with change, with the solitude and loveliness of modification: In any love deserving of the name, the I and the you are ever-changing, so that the love binding the two is ever-renewing. However maybe the strangest and most lonely-making element of I like you is that it traps the boundlessness of love in the limits language, as narrow and straining a conduit of love as the fracture in the wall between Pyramus and Thisbe.

A hundred pages into the books bigger meditation on the limitations of language– our main tool for narrating our inner lives so that we can understand ourselves and be understood– Barthes composes:

Does not this entire paroxysm of loves statement hide some lack? We would not require to speak this word, if it were not to obscure, as the squid does with his ink, the failure of desire under the excess of affirmation.

Sappho and Erinna in a Garden at Mytilene by Simeon Solomon, 1864. (Tate Britain.) With an eye to the restriction of these words– of all words– as “the in some way insignificant and primary expression of a fulfillment,” Barthes includes with a conspiratorial wink:

Theres no aid for it: I love you is a need: thus it can just embarrass anyone who gets it, except the Mother– and other than God!
Unless I must be justified in flinging out the expression in the (ever hoped-for but improbable case when two I love yous, discharged in a single flash, would form a pure coincidence, annihilating by this simultaneity the blackmail effects of one subject over the other: the demand would continue to levitate.
All (romantic) poetry and music is in this need: I like you, je t aime, ich liebe dich! However if by some wonder the jubilatory response should be offered, what might it be? What is the taste of fulfillment?

Art by Harry Clarke from an unusual 1933 edition of Poes Tales of Mystery and Imagination. In an allusion to the Ship of Theseus– the dazzling ancient Greek idea experiment exploring what makes you you– he intimates that the only thing which makes love is its self-renewal in the consciousness of the fan despite the self-exhausting loops of its declaration:

, though I repeat and rehearse it day by day through the course of time, will in some way recover, each time I utter it, a brand-new state. Like the Argonaut renewing his ship during his trip without altering its name, the topic in love will perform a long task through the course of one and the very same exclamation, slowly dialecticizing the initial demand though without ever dimming the incandescence of its preliminary address, considering that the very task of love and of language is to give to one and the very same phrase inflections which will be forever new.

Unweaving a Heart to Weave a Rainbow. Enhance with Robert Browning– one of those unusual romantic poets who increased above Barthess indictment– on stating I love you just when you indicate it and Rainer Maria Rilke– one of those rare post-romantic poets who declined to deal with romance as a deal of benefits– on what it actually implies to suggest it, then revisit theorist Martha Nussbaums Proust-fomented litmus test for how you truly understand you love someone.

In this respect, walking is a lot like love– for one human being to enjoy another is to continually find brand-new layers of oneself while continually finding new layers of the other, and in them brand-new footholds of love.

All (romantic) poetry and music is in this need: I love you, je t aime, ich liebe dich! In an allusion to the Ship of Theseus– the brilliant ancient Greek idea experiment exploring what makes you you– he intimates that the only thing which makes love is its self-renewal in the consciousness of the fan regardless of the self-exhausting loops of its statement:

Like the Argonaut restoring his ship throughout his trip without changing its name, the topic in love will carry out a long task through the course of one and the very same exclamation, gradually dialecticizing the initial need though without ever dimming the incandescence of its preliminary address, thinking about that the extremely task of love and of language is to provide to one and the exact same phrase inflections which will be permanently new.

Complement with Robert Browning– one of those uncommon romantic poets who increased above Barthess indictment– on stating I enjoy you only when you suggest it and Rainer Maria Rilke– one of those unusual post-romantic poets who declined to treat love as a transaction of conveniences– on what it truly indicates to mean it, then revisit philosopher Martha Nussbaums Proust-fomented litmus test for how you actually know you like somebody.